While working on my resume a few years ago, I wanted to know if the MOOC from Harvard or Oxford could be the difference that I was looking for in order to get an edge in a job interview or while applying for my Masters.
Fast forward to today and coincidentally, with an e-learning platform of my own, I’d like to believe that I am in the right position to share an unbiased and elaborate understanding on whether an online course genuinely adds value to you or not.
By the end of the article, you should become a more informed about online courses and their practical value addition.
- This article covers insights about online courses and MOOCs and not online degrees & online coaching classes.
- The views in this article are of mine alone and from my own personal experience. Any difference in opinion or experience is welcome.
1. Is there any value or edge from learning online?
Having online course certificates on your resume was once a matter of novelty. Post-COVID, doing an online course or adding multiple certificates to your resume might not give you as much of a competitive edge at a job or for higher education.
The whole purpose of online courses is to offer convenience and ease-of-access to education. The same ease that you have, a million others have too. The competitive advantage of just completing an online course is no longer a matter of novelty. In fact, it’s now in fashion.
Smartphones, cheaper internet, COVID, and the presence of thousands of e-learning platforms have allowed that ‘ease-of-access of education’ to hit the gym and now make it easy for 6 years old’s to learn coding from home. You, who is looking to study further or make him/herself more relevant to the job community, will not only have to do better than binging on online courses and webinars but also be smarter about what online courses are you doing and why are you really doing it.
Organizations have become conscious of this ease-of-access too and would soon have a standard expectation from applicants on how to have their applicants exposed themselves to knowledge, outside of what their formal education or formal job role allowed them to do. You might not have fancy certificates to show but your inclination to voluntarily make an effort to learn outside of what is being taught to you, will still be looked into.
As signing up for most online courses do not require the candidates to go through a formal selection procedure, the presence of online courses on your CVs shows your commitment and interest. However, there are smarter ways to reap the benefits of online learning. Candidates often judge the benefit of an online course through the perceived value of a certificate and that’s also one of the objectives behind writing this article.
I’ve interacted with hundreds of professionals who are interested in learning online and what I’ve realized from these interactions is that they’re very poorly informed or have a very simple-minded approach to enrolling for online courses.
The fact of the matter is, most online courses will not add value to you. This is not because the online course is bad, but because you as a candidate are most likely to enrol for the wrong course.
Through this article, I hope that you become more vigilant about online learning and make more responsible buying decisions, for your own edge.
2. Can online courses help me get a job?
To understand if online courses add value or not, we first need to ask ourselves, “What am I trying to add value to?” In most of the cases, the answer is, “I am adding value to my resume/CV”.
There is nothing wrong with this answer. In most cases, people with this answer usually look to add variety, brand value, or some kind of pseudo-expertise to their resume. They search for a course/subject of their interest, and very diligently and selectively search for the course offered by Harvard, Oxford, Google, Microsoft and other ‘brands’ in their respective subject, and sign up for a course. The brand happens to become their perceived symbol of quality and applicability of the contents of the course.
Again, nothing wrong with that yet. These courses could be the best out there. However, they might not be smart purchase decisions because there is a high possibility that they’re not the courses your CV needs.
Majority of the candidates don’t know what a CV means to a potential employer. How could candidates make the right decision on which online course adds value to a CV if they don’t understand a CVs role in the hiring process?
Let me help you with that.
The end use-case of a CV is to get yourself a job. Hence, will your CV be of any value if it’s not getting you a job? No. Hence, the ONLY online courses that can add value to your CV, are the ones that can then directly or indirectly help you get selected for a job, or get you into the college of your choice.
Sounds simple so far? Let’s get some further clarity.
So if we’re discussing the potential that online courses have when it comes to making your CV better, how do you make the best CV?
The fact is that no recruiter is looking for the best CV because there is no such thing as the best CV. Every recruiter is looking for a CV that’s best for them. The purpose of a CV is to give a gist to your employer as to how your education and work experience fits with the job role and nature of the recruiter. That’s it. If there is some kind of visible fit, you proceed with tests and interviews. If your CV does not represent that fit, no matter the variety, brand value, or pseudo-expertise on your resume, you will not get accepted. The problem that the majority of recruiters face today is that so many candidates spend so much time and energy on making the CV stand out, they completely forget to fit it in. Example: The mention of having done a Basics of Data Analytics course from MIT is mostly going to be ignored if the organization or role has nothing to do with Data Analytics.
You are taking up online courses to become a great candidate and that’s fine but are you doing enough to become a great candidate for them?
In the case of MIT, is the online course great? Yes. Is the certificate legitimate? Yes. Did it add value to your resume? No.
Hence, if you’re looking to know if an online course is going to add value to your CV, research into what the organization demands and always build your selection of online courses backwards.
- First, research into the industry and organization of your choice. You can do this through their website, job postings, projects, and so on.
- Second, understand their skill requirements,
- Third, evaluate the gaps in your CV,
- Lastly, select an online course that fills that exact gap.
By creating a direct connection between the organization’s requirements and the online course that you have taken up, your online course creates value by making you a better fit, compared to somebody who has NOT done the online course in the said subject.
3. What kind of online courses are organizations looking for in your resume?
Organizations hire you so that you may add value to them. If your online courses are to make a difference to your hiring, the knowledge that you derive from them should also add value to them, and the entire organization.
The kind of organizational value I am referring to is specific in the sense of:
- Increase its profits/saves its costs
- Land projects and onboard customers through technical soundness or soft skills
- Save time and improve organizational productivity
- Bring about overall operational efficiency
- Fresh inputs, experience, and perspective
This sounds a bit of a stretch but the fact is that the job market is extremely competitive. If the value that you or your choice of online courses bring in cannot be as strictly translated, their presence on your resume might not make a tangible difference to your candidature.
This brings us to identifying two broad types of online courses/training:
- Information base
Information-based online courses are your classic ‘explaining out of a PPT’ centric courses that share conceptual, factual, and/or a researched understanding of a certain subject. These courses educate you about a topic you might have no prior understanding of and open your mind to a wider range of concepts. As the name suggests, they make you more informed.
Skill-based online courses enable you to apply information by either using your mind or your hands. After the course, you should be to build, fix, improve, create, or work with something/someone. A skill-based course is what most organizations look for in your resume as they enable you to do something when compared to information-based courses that help you know something.
Example: An online course that covers all the tools and processes a carpenter follows is an information-based course, whereas one that teaches you how to build a chair, is a skill-based course. Organizations might admire your knowledge but they most likely hire you for your experience and skills. This of course depends upon the job role too.
4. Are certificates from online courses useful?
Certificates by themselves might not be of use. Most companies, if they find the right fit in you, might not ask you to produce the certificates either.
The fact is that you should see if the online course adds value to you, which you can then transfer to an organization. Your job is to add value to yourself, and not to be valued through a certificate. The certificate is merely a sign that you have completed a course. How will any certificate secure you a job if you’re unable to answer any of the interviewer’s questions?
With this understanding in mind, it’s safe to say that a course on Marketing Essentials is good, but it is of potential use only if it’s clubbed with a skill-based course such as Digital Marketing, SEO Management, Content Writing, etc. through which you can confidently say that you are skilled in digital marketing V/S you holding a certificate that states that you are aware of what the concepts of digital marketing mean.
When you take up information based online courses to make yourself aware of certain subjects, and then continue to gain technical/soft skills in that subject, you become more ideal. Between a resume with 5 information-based online courses V/S 3 skill-based courses, the perceived value to an organization becomes obvious.
I hope this article has helped you understand what and where the value of e-learning comes from and how can you make clearer choices.
The next time you opt for online training, don’t just focus on the brand or the packaging of the course. Also focus on the fit it could have with your existing skills and the job roles of your choice.
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Until Next Time